Al Gore’s Green Blasphemy

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Back in 1994, vice-president of the United States Al Gore cast the tie-breaking vote that started us on the long road of taking American farms out of food production and converting them to fuel production. While conservatives and libertarians argued at the time that subsidizing ethanol production made no economic or environmental sense, Gore and his green allies were certain that bio-fuels would solve all the nation’s woes. Sixteen years later, Mr. Gore has apparently seen the light, admitting that America’s rush to embrace corn ethanol has been something of a mistake.

Here is what Vice President Al Gore had to say about his role in subsidizing ethanol, while speaking at the Farm Journal conference back in 1998:

I was also proud to stand up for the ethanol tax exemption when it was under attack in the Congress — at one point, supplying a tie-breaking vote in the Senate to save it. The more we can make this home-grown fuel a successful, widely-used product, the better-off our farmers and our environment will be.

Contrast that with what the vice-president is quoted as saying in this report from Fox, statements he made while he was attending a recent green energy conference held in Athens, Greece:

It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol. First-generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small. One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president. The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first-generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices. The competition with food prices is real.

While it’s nice to hear that the hero of the environmental movement has embraced reality, Gore’s conversion has come far too late. When Gore cast his critical vote in 1994, the bio-fuels industry produced about 1.4 billion gallons of ethanol each year from less than fifty plants. Sixteen years later, as a direct result of government subsidies and tax breaks, over a hundred new corn ethanol plants have been built and the amount of ethanol produced in the United States has increased by almost an order of magnitude, topping 10.5 billion gallons in 2009. Private investors have invested tens of billions of dollars to build today’s massive corn ethanol infrastructure and the government has invested tens of billions more to ensure that it remains in place. Had Gore faced facts in 1994, the public and private sectors could have used those funds more wisely and more profitably elsewhere. But now? Having made this huge investment, the pain of admitting defeat, suffering our losses and walking away from corn ethanol may be too much to bear.

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  • DisappearHere

    In Australia we're in the process of having ethanol shoved down our throats, and not in a fun bar setting. At the very least we're using sugar cane which was a crop losing value in the world market. The whole point is basicly to subsidize the industry, but the result is fuel stations deciding to simply stop providing regular unleaded. This is unfortunate as about 20% of cars on our roads can't use it, so they have to buy the wildly more expensive premium fuel.
    The use of a staple such as corn, however, is just insane.

    • therealend

      "The use of a staple such as corn, however, is just insane. "

      If we could have found something more expensive and vital to convert to ethanol, we would have used that instead.

  • watchful

    and this is called progress?

    • Proudscott

      no it's called congress, pro being the opposite of con, progress vs congress.

      • 4Choice

        AMEN! How true. I always write CONgress to emphasize the con game.

  • flowerknife_us

    Just one of many things little al got wrong. Did al really say that he was just buying votes at the time?

    • therealend

      "Did al really say that he was just buying votes …"

      More or less.

  • jbtrevor

    Nice to know his corn ethanol subsidy/environmental cause was taken up in farms states he needed to secure the Dem nomination for POTUS at OUR expense.
    Now if he'd only come clean on his CO2 nuttiness..

  • davarino

    How is it that congress can subsidize anything. That is not their business or mandate at all. This is how far we as a nation have allowed our government to stray from their original intent.

    This is another thing we need to have changed. It may hurt the farms and ethanol producers but they could go to work drilling for oil here in the US.

    • highpressure

      Ask a great question … Constitutionally they can't. They are only allowed to spend money as noted in Article 1 Section 8. If this was observed …we would not have a world fiscal calamity.

  • Ret. Marine

    davarino: no it would not hurt the farmers and ethanol producers at all. It is in fact hurting the prices at the grocers and by extension of average middle income household. In as far as drill here drill now, I say let it be. There is no wrong that can come of this, restarts the industry, puts people back to work, we have already in place a clean way of doing it, the safest one's in the world and would suck dry the support of the terrorist supporting states of their power and attentions of attacking us behind closed doors. So yes do it now. but get the kenyan out of our house first because he's a global kind of guy don't you know. He would only get his veto pen out to disrupt our sovereignty and the progressives grand plan for a one world order gubmint.

  • tagalog

    Slowly, grudgingly, arguing and having tantrums over every inch of ground they lose, the global warming/climate change panicmongers are crumpling as the sunlight of reason washes over them.

    Give Al Gore credit for admitting that he made his claims about ethanol for the sake of political gain.

  • larry hagedon

    AlGore is a fraud and an idiot, but dont blame the success of biotechnology on him.

    Biotechnology is an American Success Story with hundreds of American companies, thousands of American investors profiting from it, and tens of thousands of highly paid employees.

    Love subsidies or hate them as I do, but the fact is the biotechnolgy industry has already paid out billions of dollars more in taxes than they have recieved in subsidies.

    American farmers always grow more corn that we can use, plus we export millions of bushels. There is no shortage of corn based foods in the supermarkets or anywhere else in America. Our foods markets are always saturated. There is plenty of corn grown to supply both the food and the biotech industry. We did not take one acre out of growing food to grow fuel, or any of the thousands of other pharmaceutical, industrial chemical and plastics products made from corn.

    In fact ethanol, only one product of hundreds in the biotechnology industry today, gets around one third of the subsidies that gasoline gets and ethanol is still growing in economic importance in spite of the subsidy dissadvantage compared to gasoline.

    Congress has been very quietly subsidizing gasoline with billions of dollars for most of a hundred years now to keep pump prices low so they can get re-elected.

    We need to cut out all subsidies for both gasoline and ethanol, which would cause gasoline pump prices to rise and would leave ethanol with a significant price advantage.

    For generations, petroleum based fuels have been shoved down our throats as the only transportation fuels available. Ethanol, biobutanol, biodiesel and biojet fuels are now breaking that monopoly. We are now entering the Age of Biotechnology, which is fast becoming the greatest American wealth producing age of all time.


    Madness, defined as re-directing market driven sustainable venture to ventures that require government subsidies.

  • BS77

    Global warming….global cooling….the greatest threat to the planet is the population explosion….this is what drivers the rapacious use-everything available right now mentality. Fuel, food, water, arable land, resources, coal….lumber…..everything is being vacuumed from the earth at a pace that means the extinction of thousands of plant and animal species and the horrible pollution of the planet….The population increase drives the immigration invasions, the wars, the religious and political craziness so evident in our world. From one billion to nearly eight billion in the last 150 years!!!!!

    • Bo Picklesimer

      I am sure someone was worried about one billion one hundred and fifty years ago…we have the space and the technology to handle it kid!

  • HenryCrux

    Nothing is wrong with the idea, but why make the huge mistake of only using corn? What the hell? There are lots of things we could grow to produce alcohal on marginal lands that would produce 100times more alcohol than corn – why don't we do it? Only one reason – the Corn Kings block the laws required to switch to profitable crop that would really work and not up the price of corn. Money controls our government and as long as it does we will have a moronic and crazy outcome – you know, just like NOW!

    • Fred Dawes

      its not about alcohol its about big money and control.

  • USMCSniper

    It takes 4+ gallons of water to produce one gallon of ethanol. In addition, there is a substantial negative impact the drinking water all over the Corn Belt, that increases pesticides as poison that people ingest when they eat their food, from the various pesticides and herbicides used to get high yield corn crops." Corn farming substantially tops all crops in total application of pesticides, according to the US Department of Agriculture, and is the crop most likely to leach pesticides into drinking water. The EPA has set maximum safe levels of atrazine in drinking water at 3 parts per billion, but scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey have found up to 224 parts per billion in wild Midwestern streams and 2,300 parts per billion in Corn Belt irrigation and water reservoirs. In addition, ethanol generates more CO2 gas per gallon than benzene as well as ruining engine valve seats on most cars.

  • USMCSniper

    Al Gore is a ecopsycho nutcase. Imagine this f*&krwit idiot was almost the president.

  • ebonystone

    I can think of more than one "Peace" Prize winner who should have served (or be serving) a long stretch in the slammer: besides Al Gore, there's Le Duc Tho, Anwar Sadat, Rigoberta Menchu, Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, and the present wonder-boy, BHO hisself.

  • LoneStarM

    Ethanol makes some sense in Brazil where they make it from sugar cane.

    All it makes here is money for Fat Albert and his band of eco-scamming crooks.

  • IN farmer

    The subsidy that ethanol receives is a $.46/gallon blenders tax credit. That is the blenders are entitled to a refund from the federal government of $.46 for every gallon of ethanol blended. Most of the blending is done by the oil companies. Out of a bushel of corn you get 3 gallons of ethanol and 18LBs of distillers grain. The distillers grain is fed to cattle. The distillers is equal to 1/3 of the bushel of corn. If the US produces 9 billion gallon of ethanol, it consumes 3 billion bushels of corn, but subtract off the distillers and you actually consumed 2 billion bushels. The US produces between 13 and 14 billion bushels of corn. We have enough corn for both feed, food and ethanol. Many foods have more cost in processing and transportation than it does the corn it is made from. Ethanol helps to keep those cost down. Ethanol does not wash up on the beaches. Ethanol does not come from foreign countries in which many of the residents want us dead. Ethanol adds value to a US produced raw product. Ethanol creates American jobs.

  • Wesley69

    Owl Gore, I have always thought of you as being Chicken Little. Your credibility is …. "Nough said.

    Corn based ethanol is an experiment that has failed. It has resulted in higher food & feed prices and if it is going to make a huge dent in our energy demands, even more acres would need to be devoted to it.

    I understand the investment farmers have made toward corn ethanol, and they are have very powerful lobby in Congress. An end to the subsidies means unemployment, more foreclosures, depression. But the goal is energy independence. It can not about about politics and enriching one interest group.

    It does not mean for a minute that the entire idea of biofuels is a failure. Quite the contrary. My question is why do we need to rely on corn alone? How about sugar or prairie grass? What about algae farms? I know that Brazil is filling its vehicles with sugar ethanol. Combined with the oil they have discovered, Brazil will be energy self-sufficient.

    A possible solution may be the slow phase-out the corn-based ethanol subsidy, allowing farmers to make a changeover to other crops. However, they may be able to plant trees, sugar beets or prairie grasses that would give us our bio-fuels and the farmer, a profit.and planting crops, trees, prarie grass that can be used.

  • Illinois Cornfarmer

    Oh my! Where do I start. You see there are so many inaccuracies in the thread starter and the following comments that it is very hard to pick just one target. First of all, it seems that many of those that posted above find it easy to believe that Al Gore was bought off when stating his earlier opinions on ethanol due to political aspirations yet he was later enlightened to the truth. Most above seem to think that the most recent Al Gore opinion on ethanol is truthful and relevant. One has to ask why? Could it be that Al has a new agenda or constituency to satisfy that has nothing to do with the truth? Could it be that Al is being intentionally misleading or has been misled?

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    Sooooooo, after enlightenment Al said- "The energy conversion ratios are at best very small."

    The most recent USDA report on corn ethanol production with the dry milling process suggests that we double the energy that was consumed in the entire production cycle. For those that doubt the USDA, I propose a simple exercise. Based on my 10 year average yields an acre of corn when sent to the ethanol refinery produces over 500 gallons of ethanol per acre. The ethanol byproduct- distillers dried grains with solubles- DDGS- contains virtually all of the original protein that was in the corn with the tonnage produced equaling about 30% of the original input- corn. Can someone explain to me how we used more BTUs to produce the corn and 500 gallons of ethanol than is produced when we use the ethanol? (A clue for those interested in the shortcut to the answer) NO you can't.

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    Another clue- here on the farm, I use about 7 gallons of petroleum based fuels to produce an acre of corn. An acre of corn is 43560 square feet or a bit bigger than 200' by 200'. Yes we also have to consider all energy used to produce the inputs that are used to produce the corn, the energy used to produce the ethanol but I can guarantee you that we produce many more BTUs turning an acre of corn from my area into ethanol than was consumed. The USDA report considers national average yields which are lower than may area yet they suggest that we more than double the BTUs.

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    I would also add that not only did we more than double the net energy that was used in the production cycle in producing ethanol from corn but we used less scarce energy to produce more scarce energy. Petroleum based fuels have been volatile in supply and price. Ethanol is a petroleum extender that also happens to be a bio degradable oxygenate. When making ethanol from corn we are converting coal energy, natural gas energy, wind energy, solar energy(gathered by the corn), and nuclear energy to make a fuel that suits our current transportation fleet.

    The media has done such a lousy job covering this story that most in America and maybe most in the world are victims of lots of nonsense masquerading as fact.

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    I mentioned in the above post that the media has done a poor job in accurately covering the ethanol debate. A perfect example is the food availabilty and food inflation issue as it relates to ethanol. Al said- "The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first-generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices. The competition with food prices is real."____It seems logical that if we add demand for what is grown on the land that we will increase prices for what is grown on the land. The clear and indisputable problem lies with suggestions of just how much this increased demand increases food prices. The indisputable fact is that over the last 40 years, measured from low to high, is a whopping 11 pennies per pound. Of course ethanol production is just one secondary factor of very many that has caused corn to go up in price over the last 40 years.

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    The media and some so called think tanks have simply botched the ethanol story and possible links to food inflation. The Washington Post in an article about a tragic rise in tortilla prices in Mexico, suggested that US ethanol was the primary cause of tortilla prices rising over 50 pennies per pound in a very short period of time. The Post chose to ignore the fact that over a two year period the entire price range of corn was about 4 pennies per pound. The Post also chose to ignore some very large factors that caused this price rise of 4 pennies per pound. Folks as diverse as the Heritage Foundation and PBS were quoting this story in attacking ethanol. Anyone who has grade school math skills can readily prove that the Post botched the story.

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    It is simply impossible for corn that sells for 10 pennies per pound to cause dramatic food inflation. A pound of food is a lot of food. As I mentioned above the entire price range of corn over the last 40 years is 11 pennies per pound. If as the Post suggested, the average Mexican consumes less than 1/2 pound of tortillas per day, their daily cost of tortillas due to a change in corn prices over 40 years is less than 5 pennies. The daily minimum wage in Mexico is $4.50 per hour. At historic highs for corn prices in the US, it would still only take about 1% of this mimimum wage to purchase the corn in the daily 1/2 pound of tortillas.

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    Soooooooooo it appears that there is a lot of "blasphemy" goin' on when it comes to ethanol produced from corn.

    And I haven't even touched on the environmental nonsense yet.

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    And then there seems to be the perception that Big Corn is stronger and more adept in Washington DC than Big Oil or Big Food or those who simply haven't seen an energy solution for this country that they support due to environmental concerns? Just how do you explain that?

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    The silence in deafening.

    • Guest

      I'm still stuck on tobacco subsidies. You don't suppose there's political payoff's involved in agribusiness? Nah!

  • alexander

    that arrogant, greedy imbecile has no shame……it has been proven "global warming" is a fraud, but facts never bother Big Lie Theory lovers…

  • Illinois Corn Farmer

    On the environmental front-
    +Ethanol produced from corn is the only bio degradable gasoline oxygenate available. A mixture of 10% ethanol with 90% gasoline reduces tailpipe emissions by 2/3.
    +Most of the CO2 released in the process of making and burning the ethanol was CO2 that was removed from the atmosphere by the corn plant due to photosythesis.
    +when one compares emissions in the process of making ethanol to emissions from an oil refinery, ethanol shines in comparison.
    +when one compares water use from making ethanol with water use and pollution from shale oil production, ethanol shines by comparison.
    + when one compares energy use to make ethanol vs energy use to refine heavy, hard to refine crude, ethanol shines by comparison.

    +if improved air and water quality are not the goal, all should like the fact that corn based ethanol is renewable, and has added much usable domestic fluid energy to the US economy. This domestic souce of a oxygenated gasoline extender has done much to moderate price increases at the gas pump.

  • Nico

    Everything liberals come up with, without exception, is a mistake. If it's a liberal idea, shoot it down in flames. Algore is an abomination, being at the head of the biggest hoax in history, global warming. Any and every "solution" to this non-problem has been itself a huge problem. This guy should be tarred, feathered and dropped on a deserted island.

  • Fred Dawes

    All part of the plan to take down the USA.

  • Reuven Hakohen

    Once again, Al Gore proven what a shmuck he is.